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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UF campus holds decades of legends, ghost stories

While they're not exactly the fantastic fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, UF has its own collection of myths and legends passed on from year to year.

UF law students can blame their study woes on ghosts, since the College of Law is built over the site of an ancient Native American burial ground. Rumor has it that ghosts haunt this area, unable to rest since their burial ground was defiled.

"Well, it is built on an Indian burial ground, there is a big sign out front that says that," said Steve Orlando, UF spokesman. "I suspect a lot of beleaguered, study-worn law students would say that it is very true."

Norman Hall, which is home to the College of Education, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl who died in the building in the 1930s. According to university archivist Carl Van Ness, Norman Hall was the original site of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, a K-12 school.

The residence building Thomas Hall is supposedly haunted by the spirit of Steve, the old cafeteria cook. Before the hall was converted to strictly housing, Thomas Hall had a large cafeteria, which was run by Steve. According to the legend, Steve still walks the halls banging his pots and pans together and can be heard throughout the building.

Van Ness said that there really was an old cook in Thomas Hall named Steve, and when he died, the students wanted to keep his memory alive through this legend.

"He was the cook for many years, and after he died, many students suggested that the sounds of the clanging of the radiator pipes was really Steve," Van Ness said.

Century Tower is another building on campus with a few legends surrounding it. One legend is that there was at one point a pit around the tower that held live alligators. According to Van Ness, this legend is true. Between 1953 and 1970, UF built an alligator pen around Century Tower to hold their live mascots. This is where the very first Albert the Alligator came from.

UF eventually had to stop using live alligator mascots because they were being mistreated. The first Albert was found beaten to death, and Florida State University students kidnapped his replacement, Albert II, as a prank. UF went through several alligators, and all of them died or developed health problems before the idea of a live mascot was scrapped.

A second legend surrounding Century Tower is about its bricks. It is said that any time a virgin graduates from UF, a brick will fall from the top of the tower. As anyone can tell you now, Century Tower still stands tall and sturdy.

"It's still standing and still intact. That's all I'll say about that," said Orlando.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity brothers are doing their part to help keep Century Tower standing tall for years to come. In front of the SAE Fraternity house is a lion statue, which is constantly being painted different colors.

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According to the legend, whenever an SAE Fraternity member takes a girl's virginity, the lion will be repainted the color of her panties.

"Some things are better left to other people's imaginations," SAE President Andrew Peluso said. "We recently set fire to the lion about a year and a half ago. We had years and years and years of paint on the lion and had to burn it all off."

Beaty Towers also have their own legend, which states that there once was a girl

who committed suicide by jumping off the roof of one of the towers. Later, songwriter and musician Tom Petty, a Gainesville native, supposedly wrote his song "American Girl" based on this legend.

Orlando said that no one has committed suicide by jumping off Beaty Towers. Orlando also said that he has met Petty in person, and Petty told him that the song was not inspired by this rumor.

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